Roquette moves to commercial-scale with microalgae-based food and ingredients project in France

June 16, 2014 |


Last year in the Digest, we reported the break-up of Solazyme Roquette, a JV aimed at producing a new range of food ingredients made from renewable plant-based raw materials with exceptional nutritional potential.

Happily, Solazyme has subsequently reached commercial scale at Moema, and news reached the Digest this week that Roquette, a global leader in processing plant-based raw materials (corn, wheat, potatoes, peas and microalgae), has introduced a production unit dedicated to microalgae at its industrial site in Lestrem (Pas de Calais, France). The unit has production capacity of 4,000 to 5,000 tons/year.

This industrial unit, which uses chlorella as a target microalgae, launched its new range of food ingredients made from renewable plantbased raw materials with exceptional nutritional potential.

algility chlorella, algility HL, algility HP

algility chlorella, algility HL, algility HP

Here’s the line-up:

•algility HL, whole algal flour, which was recognized as the most innovative ingredient of the year at the FIE Innovation Awards 2013. Roquette said that “this whole food ingredient significantly improves the nutritional qualities of recipes (reduces fat, optimizes lipid profile) while preserving taste and texture.”
• algility HP, whole algal protein. This whole food ingredient, which is under development, combines plant-based proteins (as an alternative to animal proteins), fibers and unsaturated lipids.
• algility chlorella, a nutrient-rich whole food ingredient.

Reaction from Roquette

“Thanks to this new investment in microalgae, Roquette has become a major player in this emerging sector,” noted Sergio Neves, Global Director Microalgae Business Line. “We are convinced that microalgae are an effective answer to consumer concerns about nutrition and well-being.”

“The industrial unit benefits from the whole infrastructure of the Lestrem site, the biggest of the Group’s 21 units and the biggest biorefinery in Europe. It also benefits from the Group’s expertise in fermentation and in launching and running Roquette’s industrial installations.” commented Guillaume Fichet, Lestrem Site Director.

Roquette’s background

With its expertise in drawing value from agricultural raw materials, the Roquette Group invested in microalgae:

• creating a dedicated research laboratory in 2006;
• leading a research program in 2008 (ALGOHUB® supported by OSEO now Bpifrance);
• acquiring production sites in Germany in 2008 and China in 2009;
• and launching small-scale production at Lestrem in 2012, followed by the construction of the new industrial unit, which is now fully operational.

The Bottom Line

5,000 tons is not to be sneezed at — but it may well indicate the rationale for the break-up of Solazyme Roquette, as Solazyme’s ambitions in the space may be best demonstrated by the development of their 100,000 metric ton capacity unit at Moema, in the JV with Bunge.

Last June in the Digest, we reported: “It was a terse announcement that crossed the wire early yesterday morning from Fortress SZYM, without warning except perhaps to equity analysts that hopped on a hastily-arranged call. Solazyme and Roquette Frères were announcing the dissolution of their two-year old joint venture, Solazyme Roquette Nutritionals. The cause? “Divergent views on an acceptable commercial strategy and timeline for the manufacturing and marketing of joint venture products” and in the announcement, Solazyme tipped that it “intends to accelerate commercialization of its suite of innovative microalgal food ingredients.”

With wheat flour prices hovering in the $600 per ton range — the technology implications are huge but the immediate financial returns may be relatively meager. Roquette may well have opted for a more fiscally conservative route, in terms of timeline — but for today, the key takeaway is Roquette’s successful leap to commercial-scale.

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